Month: May 2020

His Name Was Charles

His name was Charles and he was the first born in the family. He was my brother, but I never knew him as I was born two years after Mom and Dad got the MIA (missing in action) certificate from the government. He was on a volunteer mission after the attack on Pearl Harbor. His plane got off course and went down in the Pacific Ocean somewhere between Hawaii and Christmas Island.

When he was a teenager, the family lived in a town in the Mississippi Delta. They lived down the street from a Ham Radio Operator (Amateur Radio). Even back then radio was a kind of magic, and my brother got the radio bug. I am pretty sure he learned Morse Code from that Ham Operator. After all, the Ham Radio Community has a tradition and duty of mentoring others into the hobby.

During World War I and World War II, the US Government looked at the Amateur Radio community as a ready trained source of trained Morse Code operators.

Charles, like most young men wanted to grow out of his rural beginnings and see something of the world. His ticket was his skills with the code. Somehow, he became a radio operator in the Civilian Conservation Corps, which apparently had its own communications network.

From there, Charles managed to wrangle an enlistment into the US Army. That does not sound like a tough thing to do, but this was before Pearl Harbor, and Charles first posting was to Hawaii as a radio operator in the shore defense units. This was a prime posting, especially for a newbie.

The communications facility was on Diamond Head. On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 he took a break, stepping out of the radio building to take a smoke. That’s when he saw the Japanese planes. He witnessed the attack from Diamond Head. I’m not sure why the Japanese didn’t go after radio communications towers, but they didn’t.

Charles later wrote a letter to his little brother, Ray, about the event. This letter was published in the Cleveland, Mississippi newspaper as a first-person witness to the attack.

After the attack, liberties were cancelled, most soldiers were confined to base. It was so boring that Charles volunteered for a mission to ferry airplane parts from Hawaii to Christmas Island. He was on board as the radio operator and was undoubtedly the one to send the message that they were going down. They had gotten off course during a storm and ran out of fuel.

It was an emotional time. Losing a child, especially the first born, is a tough thing to handle. The first MIA certificate the government sent my parents had the incorrect date. Dad called Washington, DC and had this corrected, I was told, after a bit of spicy language with whomever was on the other end of the line. He had called for President Truman. Naturally, he was not put through to the President.

As World War II wound to a close and the soldiers started coming home, Dad would go to the train station in Memphis to look for Charles. Since he was missing in action, there was no proof of death. Stories abound of how sailors and soldiers were rescued from certain death at sea, only to be held in Japanese prison camps.

Charles never came home.

It is important to remember those eager, young men. They left the farms, towns and cities before many were even shaving regularly. We honor them for their sacrifice.

 

 

It’s All In The Data, Maybe

As expert in all things data, I have been examining the COVID-19 case data and am ready make the following observations.

1. All categories of data are inherently wrong. There is at least a two-week lag before data gets reported, and even then is composed of reports from a myriad of sources, not all of whom collect the same sets of data for each case. What you see for today’s numbers is not going to be what today’s numbers are finally tallied to be.

2. Data are reported through public health departments, hospitals, and even the emergency management agencies. The recording formats are diverse, and accuracy depends on the ability of workers to record little things like the sex and race of the case. For example, in Georgia the stats show African-American and White race cases, and also a large number of cases labeled as “Missing”, and “Unknown” where the race has not been recorded. The word useless comes to mind.

3. There are Billion$ allocated in the CARES ACT for help to hospitals in handling COVID cases. Certainly an easily foreseen consequence of this bill would be the obvious incentive for hospitals to categorize as many cases as COVID as possible for the premium the government pays them under the new law. We hear reports that heart attack deaths sometimes turn into COVID deaths.

4. Data on the global status is accumulated from all the various nations’ public health departments. Take ALL of this data, especially if it comes through the World Health Organization with a great deal of cynicism. It is like all the other United Nations efforts, it is biased. The individual countries, like China, have reason to lie, and they do.

This is an exciting time for many academic fields including economics, epidemiology, medical science, psychology, and other disciplines that depend on data to formulate and make their conclusions. It will be decades if ever before we get it all sorted. In the meantime, we make life and death decisions on incomplete, and sometimes false data.

Our future comes down to the normal risk-reward decisions we make everyday.

Sometimes we win. Some times we lose.

 

 

Welcome To Interesting Times

There’a a purported Chinese curse that says, “May you live in interesting times.” These are interesting times. We are living through a pandemic like those we read of in history books. It is not as bad as the bubonic plague when about 40% of the worlds population was killed, or is it as fleeting as the ebola virus which ravaged some of the world, but left parts alone.

Our pandemic has been with us since March, and appears to be heading for the first weeks of summer. Here in Georgia, the governor opted to loosen the pandemic strictures somewhat last week to include salons and tattoo parlors. The outcry around the nation was deafening, assuming that we are willing to send people to their graves just to get a paycheck.

Oh, how wrong they were. The new cases in Georgia have been decreasing significantly the last week. However, we won’t know if we have made a mistake until a couple of weeks have passed. At this point it looks like the governor has made the right call. From the looks of the curves in the south, we will be in relatively safe country in June.

The virus is not disappearing, it is migrating. It is moving from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere for their cold and flu season. As fall approaches in the northern hemisphere, we will see an uptick, or spike in the number of corona virus infections as the virus works its way back north. This is the way viruses propagate. It will be some time before the populations have built up enough immunity to consider it not a danger.

One big hope is a vaccine, even though many people say it is physically impossible to achieve a safe and effective vaccine in less than a year. There are some cases where medical institutions have not been able to synthesize a vaccine to combat certain viruses. HIV is one, and SARS is another.

Until then, our leaders must understand that the American people are not stupid, nor are they inherently careless with their health. We understand the risks of opening the economies, and most people are willing to risk infection to feed their families. This is not a case of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. It is a case of common sense and Americans have that quality in spades.